Back in the day, the queens of the squared circle, oh, they were something, I tell you.
When I was staring in fascination at black-and-white, rabbit-ear earned action of Wrestling I Just Knew Was Real, the best of the women wrestlers was The Fabulous Moolah.
Oh, what a great and funny name for a woman who was born as Mary Lillian Ellison on July 22, 1923, in a South Carolina country town by the name of Tookiedoo.
As her story goes, Mary Lillian’s dad yearned for a night in the city, so he took his 10-year-old daughter with him to the state capital of Columbia, where they took in a wrestling match.
The kid took to it.
According to http://prowrestling.wikia.com/wiki/The_Fabulous_Moolah, she began working for promoter Billy Wolfe and his wife Mildred Burke in 1956. Mildred was a wrestler herself, as well as a trainer, and she took Mary Lillian under her wing.
But another promoter knew there needed to be a change.
According to her obituary in The New York Times after she died at the age of 84, a man by the name of Jack Pfeffer asked her what drew her to wrestling.
Wrote Times reporter Richard Goldstein:
“He asked her why she was wrestling, and, as she recalled: ‘Annoyed, I blurted out: ‘For the money. I want to wrestle for the moolah.’
“First, she apprenticed as a valet for Nature Boy Buddy Rogers; she was billed as Slave Girl Moolah and clad in a leopard-skin outfit. Soon, she was wrestling as the Fabulous Moolah, and she won the championship belt in 1956.”
So began a ring career that lasted, incredibly enough, into 1999. That’s when WWE brought her back, and, in Cleveland, she pinned opponent Ivory and won back the belt at the age of 76.
Her fame really was wide. In 1983 she sold the rights to her Women’s World Championships to Vince McMahon and his WWF, and appeared exclusively for his popular organization. She was part of a popular rock ‘n’ roll feud that included Cyndi Lauper and Captain Lou Albano.
In 1994 she was the first woman wrestler to be inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame.
She co-wrote a biography about her career, “The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle” with Larry Platt in 2002.
In 2004, her story was part of Ruth Leitman documentary “Lipstick & Dynamite,” which was a history of women’s pro wrestling.
The Fabulous Moolah stood only 5-foot-4, but her flying drop-kick sure looked huge to a little kid watching on black-and-white TV in the 1960s.
Here’s the link to The Fabulous Moolah’s obituary in the New York Times.